Ok, a teeny bit of trumpet blowing to kick off this post.
I enjoy trivia. Not only do I enjoy it, I’m rather good at trivia quizzes. I seem to have one of those brains that soaks up info such as “What is the largest dog breed” like a thirsty sponge, but ask me when the Slagtersnek Rebellion took place, and I’ll look at you as if you’ve just grown a horn out of your forehead. But to get back to the point, I play online trivia quizzes on a daily basis and I tend to compete with the best of them.
A second point worth mentioning is that I’m an atheist. I did go through a phase where I was quite religious… even to the point of being on my school’s Student Christian Association and being an altar boy at my church… fortunately, the latter was Anglican and the indomitable Father Horatio Alby didn’t feel the pressing need to introduce me to the joys of buggery, as a part of my religious upbringing.
However, I had questions, and to the inquiring mind “You must have faith” was not a suitable answer, so I began to read. And strangely, the more I read, the less I believed, until I reached the point where I eventually said, “God? What a load of crock, designed to keep superstitious masses in check, and unscrupulous swine in ermine cloaks and little boys,” or words to that effect anyway. Not that I read the standard “atheist conversion tools” – Dawkins and Darwin. No, I read the Bible (several times, especially the juicy bits), the Koran, the Bhagavad Gītā, the Book of Mormon (handily found in a 2nd hand shop), books by the excellent (IMHO) Barbara Thiering, books on Christian Church history and many others, all of which contributed towards a fairly general knowledge of religion.
Now, I’ve always scored quite well on religious quizzes, sometimes even surprising myself, when I correctly name some or other Old Testament figure, but I put this down to my trivia skills.
However, it seems I was wrong.
According to a recent(ish) report on a survey of US religions, it would appear as if atheists and non-Christians score significantly higher on a religious quiz, than Christians. Jews and Mormons scored most closely to Atheists and Agnostics, with both Evangelical and mainline Protestants, as well as other Christians and Catholics lagging significantly behind. In fact, I took their online version, and scored 14/15 (missing out on a question on the First Great Awakening, which I presume is some American thing). However, ignoring my own mark, it’s interesting to note some of the significant results of the survey.
Naturally, evangelical Christians would probably ignore the questions that didn’t relate to their own Stone Age myth, given their typical head-in-the-sand attitude, but really, their ignorance should be put on display for all to see. Still, before we look at some of the individual questions, let’s look at the overall scores:
- I scored 14/15, or 93%
- Jewish participants had an average score of 65%
- Atheists came in at 64%
- Mormons came in at 61%
- Evangelicals lagged behind at 54% and only Catholics, at 51%, remained with a passing grade.
- Mainline Protestant, Black Protestant, “Nothing in particular” and Hispanic Catholic all failed.
However, it gets more alarming when you look at the responses to individual questions:
- When it comes to knowing that Moses led the Exodus, Jews, Mormons and atheists romp home, with 90%, 92% and 87% respectively. Overall mark = 72%. 72%… for one of the most basic stories in the Bible?
- Here’s a scary one: Only 55% overall knew that “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is NOT one of the 10 Commandments. Only 49% of Protestants and 67% of Evangelicals knew this. Sadly only 62% of atheists did. Mormons ran away with this question, with 81% getting it right.
- Christians generally have no idea when the Jewish sabbath begins.
- 41% of Catholics have no idea about the basic teaching of the Communion
- Likewise, 7% of Mormons don’t know who Joseph Smith was (which is really a bit like saying “Jesus who?”)
- Another strange one, was the the fact that almost nobody (except the Mormons) associated Job with the character who remained obedient, despite God fucking with his mind and life. Once again, I was under the impression that this was one of those stories everybody heard growing up. What better way to inspire loyalty than the threat of being royally fucked up if you aren’t… or even if you are for that matter.
- Another obvious one, was the fact that just about everybody knew about the ban on classroom prayer, Evangelicals with 93% coming second to atheists with 95%. Go us! Then again, given that this is a constant bleating from the rabid right, this hardly comes as a surprise.
- What does come as a surprise, however, is that very few people know that a teacher is allowed to read from the Bible in class, as an example of literature. Jews and atheists come in at 40%, with evangelicals – no doubt still languishing in the persecution complex of the point above – come in at 26%.
- Likewise, atheists, Jews and Mormons led the way in knowing that Luther was responsible for the Reformation. The fact that some 53% of Protestants don’t know who started their spin-off of Catholicism, is just another indication of the congregation being sheep – being led along by the man in the pulpit, without know WHY they’re being led along.
Of course, you can take surveys as they come. However, it’s been a long-standing belief of many – including myself – that the non-religious have a far better knowledge and understanding of religion than the religious. It’s good to see something that entrenches that belief.